We’re more than a month removed from the NFL Draft, and we’ve had a chance to see a lot of the rookies make their debuts with their new teams. Based on OTA observations and reports from their head coaches, it should not come as a shock as to which rookies will have the biggest impact this coming season.
Here are the top 10 rookies on the offensive side of the ball for 2014:
1. Brandin Cooks — WR
Cooks is joining an already high-octane New Orleans Saints offense, and is expected to not only contribute as a receiver split wide but as a weapon out of the backfield as well. Cooks should fill a role comparable to that of Percy Harvin, helping alleviate the void left by Darren Sproles. Trust that Drew Brees knows how to make the most of Cooks’ talents.
2. Mike Evans — WR
The Evans-Vincent Jackson tandem is drawing a lot of comparisons to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Evans appears to be a towering, physical wide receiver, one that is going to snatch up any balls thrown in his direction. If Josh McCown can continue where he left off last season with the Chicago Bears, Evans should be in top consideration for the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
3. Teddy Bridgewater — QB
It wouldn’t surprise me the least bit to see Bridgewater under center for the Minnesota Vikings as early as Week 4 or 5, especially considering how strong of an OTAs he has had. He’s a cerebral player, and the faster he can grasp Norv Turner’s offense the sooner he’ll be needed to push the team in the right direction.
4. Eric Ebron — TE
Ebron was drafted by the Detroit Lions and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who comes from the Saints, found unique ways to use Jimmy Graham. Now alongside Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, Ebron should see plenty of open targets in a high-octane Detroit offense.
5. Jake Matthews — OT
Matt Ryan was on his backside more often than he was throwing touchdown passes a season ago, and that’s why the Atlanta Falcons brought Matthews into town. Matthews should instantly improve Atlanta’s pass protection, especially Ryan’s blindside. His impact will be seen right away.
6. Terrance West — RB
Although the Cleveland Browns signed Ben Tate in free agency, West is the running back making the best case for playing time right away. The former Towson standout was very popular during pre-draft workouts, and in Cleveland has a chance to revive a running game that was non-existent a season ago. The team has a strong core of offensive linemen, which bodes well for West’s chances of succeeding.
7. Johnny Manziel — QB
Similar to Bridgewater’s situation, we expect Johnny Football to be the starter in Cleveland at some point this season. And when he is, he’ll be a much-needed upgrade over the very bland Brian Hoyer. Manziel doesn’t have the best wideouts to throw to with Josh Gordon out of the picture, but he’ll be a more athletic presence better able to make plays out of nothing.
8. Jeremy Hill — RB
Finally, BenJarvus Green-Ellis won’t be wasting carries in Cincy. It’ll be a backfield tandem of Gio Bernard and Hill, which should be a strong mixture of thunder and lightning. Hill is a dynamic downhill runner and should be an excellent change-of-pace back for the more shifty Bernard.
9. Bishop Sankey — RB
With Chris Johnson now in New York, Sankey will have a strong chance at being the Tennessee Titans’ starting running back almost by default. Sankey will likely be thrust right into action, and I imagine Ken Whisenhunt has a plan in place for the rookie.
10. Carlos Hyde — RB
We’re always on the lookout for Frank Gore‘s decline, and Hyde may be the back to supplant him. Though he isn’t the No. 2 back on the depth chart, he’s a bigger back in the mold of Gore with probably the highest upside of any other back on the San Francisco 49ers roster. If Gore’s workload is lessened, expect Hyde to take a large chunk of the available carries.